Wednesday, January 12, 2011

HC News

Dear Readers,
Many of you may have read an earlier story on the HC News about the County’s looking into shared services, consolidation of services and/or reassignment of local government from municipalities to the county.  The goal is not to pick on or highlight Clinton Township or any one municipality’s spending, but to exam how we can together deliver local government services in the most economic way.  I apologize for characterizing the spending of any municipality as wasteful. Without full context, those judgments cannot be fairly made.

I have gathered a small group of elected officials, one small town Councilperson, one large town Committeeperson, and a small school Board of Education member (we are looking for a large school Board of Education member) to look at the spending and budgeting of us all and make recommendations on which areas to tackle and in what order to tackle them.

We will be putting on our website a comparative spending guide for all 26 municipalities, showing what each municipality budgets for personnel for several major categories and job titles.  It will include the real dollar amount as well as the cost per person, household and land area.  This will be an invaluable tool to exam what the real savings may be for example if the county was to have a county wide police force as some have suggested, a county wide construction code enforcement division, or what the real savings would be for two municipalities to share a service or even consolidate.  It is not all inclusive but it is a good first step.

The next step would be to more thoroughly examine an area that looks promising and to include all associated costs and revenues.  All this we hope will lead to real action within the year.

Once costs are known and quantified, voters and the people who represent them can make better decisions about whether the cost is worth the potential loss in service.  Are having taxes collected locally instead of by the county worth the extra cost to taxpayers (assuming there is a savings)?  Is keeping the local identity and control of living in a small municipality worth the extra cost (again assuming there is an extra cost)?

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.  We will be following up in the near future with the site name and information on how we, including all local elected officials and most importantly the taxpayers who pay for all of it and the voters who assign us to make these decisions, can work together to tame property taxes.

Rob Walton, Hunterdon County Freeholder

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